Undone Urban Tropical Sahara
Words/Photography: Me / Model: Jason
UNDONE is an independent brand that has taken a unique approach to their watches: customers can customize their watch – changing cases, dials, casebacks, and even engraving initials – via UNDONE’s website watch builder. Fans of customization rejoice!
Their latest is the Tropical Collection, which features a Tropical-inspired patina dial. The model I have here is the Urban Tropical Sahara, a 40mm Seiko VK64-powered chronograph with a brown patina dial and matching faded brown leather strap.
Priced at $345, the Urban Tropical Sahara is within the scope of what most would consider a “nice watch”. This is the first UNDONE I’ve seen hands-on, so let’s not waste any time in having a closer look.
Undone Urban Tropical Sahara Technical Specifications
- Model Number: Urban Tropical Sahara
- MSRP: $345
- Case Diameter: 40mm
- Alternate Models: Customize away!
- Movement: Quarz, Seiko VK64 “Mecha-Quartz”
- Complications: Chronograph, date display
- Battery Life: Approximately 3 years
- Water Resistance: 30m / 99ft
- Crystal Material: Mineral
Much Ado About the Tropics
The marketing team behind the Urban Tropical collection are keen on letting the watch world know about where the Tropical hubbub comes from. Considering the value that collectors have placed on properly Tropical patina dialed watches, it’s hard to fault them for making the effort.
This post at aBlogtoWatch, penned by UNDONE co-founder Michael Young, goes into depth about the Tropical dial and why UNDONE sought to recreate it in the first place.
I’ll paraphrase here: some vintage Swiss timepieces, particularly certain Omega’s and Rolexes, have become contemporarily collectible thanks to their UV-overexposed dials. The patina formed on the dial are typically rich browns or deep gold tones, and no two dials will age identically. This inherent uniqueness is part of what makes them sought after today.
UNDONE’s emulation of the years-in-the-making Tropical patina is what makes them special.
Good Looks Inspired by the Tropics
The Tropical Sahara is my pick of the collection, and it looks even better on my wrist than it does on the screen.
Some I’ve talked to have argued that emulating the Tropical dial devalues it. I’m not going to get involved in that conversation since A) I don’t have a dog in that race, and B) I couldn’t care less about what drives or thrives in the collectors market. Take away all of that, and what’s left is a good looking watch.
Oh, and one that’s super comfortable to wear. The rally mud brown strap is one of the best I’ve worn out of the box. Super comfortable and well ventilated (ha). It’s also great looking, elevating the rest of the watch.
Tan contrast stitching gives the straps some focus right below the lugs and smartly matches the faded brown color. The color and style of the strap is a great combination.
The slightly-tapered lugs are thin and minimal, as is the rest of the case. The two-toned steel case, alternating between brushed and polished finishes, is relatively discreet at 13.5mm high.
I can’t say I am in love with the tachymeter bezel, which protrudes slightly from the rest of the case (making it look like the brim of a stainless-steel hat), but I can say I’m in love with the patina dial. You can change the bezel to go with a “stepped down” option that doesn’t extend past the dial; doing so also lowers the price a bit too.
Faux-patina or otherwise, I think it looks excellent. The dial has a distinct texture – the patina has depth and isn’t simply printed – that helps the patina dial feel as special as it looks. It captures light and draws attention to the patina. I think it’s beautiful, especially when paired with this particular strap.
You can pick your “degree” of aging, so to speak, by choosing one of the other dial options.
I prefer the Sahara version, though if I could customize mine I’d opt for the stepped down bezel and exhibition caseback.
The Seiko VK64 Mech-Quartz Chronograph Movement
Mecha-quartz movements are, to some, something of an enigma. On one hand, they offer a mechanical feel (the chronograph is the “mecha” component), and on the other they offer the accuracy and reliability of a quartz movement.
And yet watch enthusiasts everywhere seem to get a little nutty once you mention the mecha-quartz.
I don’t see why. The Seiko VK64 mechanical quartz is, among being very accurate and reliable, a flyback chronograph. While a battery does what a mainspring would normally do, that doesn’t make the VK64 an inferior movement. You could actually convincingly argue the exact opposite: that compared to a mechanical chronograph, a mecha-quartz chrono is the superior choice from a technical and reliability perspective.
Personally, I prefer mechanical movements over quartz movements, but that’s only because I have a habit of taking photos of the exhibition caseback which you can get on your UNDONE if you opt for it as a no-charge option.
Which I would have done, by the way. I bet an exposed caseback of this movement looks badass.
But It’s Not Flawless
Two items cloud an otherwise clear sky: the first is the choice to use a mineral crystal in place of a sapphire on a watch worth nearly $350, and the second is the paltry 30m / 99ft of water resistance afforded to said $350 watch.
Considering that it’s named the UNDONE Urban Tropical Sahara, you’d think they’d at least give it enough water resistance to allow it to get wet. 30m of water resistance means that it can be splashed – such as when washing your hands – but that’s it. While I can sort of understand the crystal, I really don’t understand the poor water resistance rating. I’d have expected at least a 50m / 165ft rating on a watch of this price.
Good Looking & Comfortable, But You’ve Got to Pay to Play
It’s not often that I’ve got feelings as mixed as these when it comes to a watch. There’s a lot about the Urban Tropical Sahara that I like, including how it feels on my wrist. I really like the brown patina theme, and the depth said patina lends the dial is a nice enhancement indeed.
It’s also quite comfortable to wear- the strap is among the most comfortable I’ve worn.
Where I’m apprehensive is in the cost of admission. Note in the price itself, mind you – $350 is a fair price to pay for a good quality watch – but it’s underwhelming water resistance and mineral crystal are hard choices to understand given the price.
Ultimately, I think there’s more to like than fault in the Sahara and think that it’s worth your eye- just opt for the exhibition caseback in the customizer and don’t take it somewhere where it will get wet.